Collocations are words that go together. Students preparing for exams are especially annoyed when they are not able to easily pick up collocations. They keep asking why they can’t use a certain combination of words.
The most common answer is that it just doesn’t sound natural. You can use a wrong collocation and, in most cases, people will understand what you are trying to say. However, if you are preparing for an exam, it’s just simply counted as a mistake. The problem is that some word combinations sound natural in one language but totally out of place when translated into English. Being an advanced student means you DO want to sound natural, don’t you?
First let’s focus on the combination types:
- Verb+ noun ex. He couldn’t grasp the meaning of it all.
- Noun+ verb ex. Darkness enveloped him again…
- Adjective+ noun ex. That seems like an apt quotation for my paper.
- Adverb+ verb ex. They hardly understood what I was talking about!
- Adverb+ adjective The weather was absolutely marvelous!
Once you’ve decided to study collocations in a text, decide on a paragraph and underline the collocations you find. Make a list of the collocations according to the combinations above.
Then, when you have made a thorough list, you might want to organize them according to words. For example, if we take the word DARKNESS from the MACMILLIAN COLLOCATIONS DICTIONARY we will find the following entry:
Adj+N total, absolute, complete, impenetrable, pitch, total, utter He rubbed his eyes, and soon became aware that he was alone in the church, and in utter darkness.
V+N light up darkness dispel, illuminate, light up, penetrate, pierce The only light that penetrates the darkness emits blurrily from the neon sign in the window.
N+v approach, close in, descend, engulf sth, envelop sb/sth, fall, shroud sb/sth in, surround sb/sth Darkness enveloped him again, but this time there seemed to be lights up ahead.
Don’t forget to include examples. The best is to copy the sentences you have found in the text.
If you are watching a video or film, use the subtitles to copy the collocations and add them to your list. You can either note down the example from the video or find one in a collocations dictionary.
1. Here is a video giving more tips on how to study collocations:
2. James from Engvid teaches you how to use the adverbs: only, just, barely and merely.
3. Here you can check out your knowledge of ten adjective noun collocations:
4. And after all this work ,you deserve a break. Check out this fun video on American and British slang. It’s hilarious!